If anyone buys this purely on the basis of the dancefloor anthem "Hard to Beat" and expects a collection of similar tracks (only one comes close - "Living for the Weekend") the chances are they are going to be disappointed. The track is an absolute gem in it's own right but is in no way solely representative of what is a very tight and exciting debut album.
The CD as a whole isn't totally cohesive, the title track is weak and I'm not convinced over the piano ballad "Move on Now". Probably worth 4.5 stars in my opinion, down to those two "weaker" tracks.
Those two aside though, the rest is absolutely storming. The obvious parallels with the Clash/Specials are spot on, but do you remember either of these bands at their political/vitriolic best? Musically Hard-fi are up there with them. The driving rhythms, dub bass, singalong choruses, even a drop of mellatron ffs!! The vocals are straight from the Strummer/Jones school of London sloganeering. The messages are much more social commentary for the noughties rather than the heavy political sloganeering of the Thatcher era(the Streets comparisons, lyrically, are fair).They are far from a one trick pony though, and although there are certain sounds and themes running through the bulk of the tracks, there is enough diversity to hold your attention.
The singles are initially the tracks that really jump out at you, but after a few plays there are others that are just as strong - Middle Eastern Holiday, Better do Better, Feltham is singing out, Living for the weekend etc.
"Q" dubbed them the next major British band. Time will tell, but I think they'll be there or thereabouts.